A review by Stuart Brogden
There are times when I wonder if anything good can come from Zondervan. Raising Passionate Jesus Followers, by Phil and Diane Comer, did not allay that concern. After reviewing the table of contents (lots of short chapters) I made a bee-line for Appendix B – Leading Your Child to Christ, to find out, first off, if the gospel was properly presented. Sigh. For one thing, this entire book is filled with new-age talk about “sharing Jesus” and “model” Jesus. Amidst some good counsel, Read the Scriptures to them (your children) regularly!” there is a common yet sad misunderstanding of Scripture in the next sentence: “Read John 3: to them and talk about how much God loves them.” (page 284) On the next page, we are told, “After modeling for your kids what it looks like to follow Jesus; and praying and talking to them about making a decision to follow the way of Jesus; when you feel the time is right, be bold and ask them if they would like to receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord!” Praying and talking to your kids about the gospel is the right thing to do. Asking them if they would like to receive Jesus is part and parcel of the false gospel of man’s free will, couched in terms of following Jesus without the gospel being presented.
Throughout this book we find behavior, followers of Jesus, but I don’t recall once having seen the death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ by grace through faith being discussed. This aligns perfectly, however, with the perspective that behavior modification can result in a “follower.” Still in this revealing appendix, we find this (page 286):
One Sunday afternoon after church, we were driving to a friend’s house for lunch. Our oldest son, John Mark, who was just four-and-a-half years old at the time, was in the car with us. He’s just heard a clear presentation of the good news in his children’s call at church and, as we were driving, he blurted out: “I want to give my life to Jesus right now!”
We pulled the car over nest to a strip mall on a busy boulevard and led him in a prayer to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Right there, in that moment, he was saved!
Later on (same page) we’re told, “You want your child to remember the life-changing decision they (sic) made, so talk about the place, the time, the night and who was there when they (sic) gave their (sic) life to the Lord. Anything to help them remember their decision as they grow older.” I don’t find any of this in Scripture! I see the saints being encouraged to keep their focus on Christ, trusting in Him – not a decision we made – to keep us until He returns. If you have to remember what you did, your confidence that you are right with God will rest on yourself rather than on the One Who saves sinners.
There is some good parenting counsel scattered throughout this book, but the work is built on the faulty foundation of decisional regeneration, a hat-tip to God’s sovereignty, and a lack of biblical clarity.
A quick review, starting with the introductory A Note to Parents, wherein we see this worldly view of the love for God we are to have (page 16): “The Jesus we wanted out kids to fall in love with is the One who …” Falling love is a Greco-Roman view of love, you are helpless, it happened to you. The biblical view of love is that it is a deliberate act of the person in response to having first been loved by God. We don’t fall in love with Jesus; we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Chapter 4 introduces us The Great Shema, and we learn that “Jesus loves your children. He longs to bring them close, to redeem them and make them his own. … God is inviting you to join Him” (page 35), He longs for a loving relationship with each of us” (page 39). Again we see a Jesus who wants to redeem sinners but is apparently unable to do so without our help. In chapter 8 we are told our goal is “to raise sons and daughters who are passionate Jesus followers. By “passionate Jesus followers” we mean kids who grow up to truly love and walk with the Lord” (page 53). By making a goal focused on results rather than on personal faithfulness, the authors are setting their readers up for a crushing sense of failure. We cannot produce Christians – God alone does that. We are to be faithful witnesses of Him by the proper teaching of His Word. If that is our goal, we can rest a bit easier, for God will enable and equip us to do this, as His instructions are to make disciples by teaching them all He has commanded. We teach; God calls people out of spiritual death into the glorious light of His kingdom.
Throughout much of this book, the authors talk about managing the box – the area (physically and psychologically) that our kids occupy. As they grow and mature, the box gets bigger. This is something I personally agree with vigorously, as we are to train our children to take responsibility for their decisions and the scope of those choices which with they can live increases as they mature.
Near the end of the book, advice for parents of adult children is given. Much of it reflects humanistic psychology, wrapped up in personal piety. “Bless your grown children by believing in them … they need our approval and affirmation” (page 263). I would hope parents would bless their adult Christian children by reminding of God’s faithfulness, not puffing them up as if they were something they are. This may be what the authors intended by the last sentence in this section: “Remember, He who began a good work in your children right in your very own home, will carry it on to completion.” Nothing in this chapter up to this point indicates whether the adult children being spoken of are “passionate Jesus followers” or not. And the authors do not once – as far as I noticed – call Christians by that name. Consistently they talk about people who follow Jesus, as if the Bible did not use that term (specifically in 1 Pet 3:16 and 4:16).
When we try to provide Christian parenting counsel, we must be true to the Word of God. Trying to be relevant to our culture and compromising the bare truth found in Scripture will end up leading people astray, not closer to God’s truth.